Posts Tagged by connecticut

Connecticut Brewers Fest 2014 at Two Roads Brewing Company

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Connecticut is becoming a hot bed for craft breweries.  They seem to be popping up everywhere and each one has some very unique offerings.  Last night one of my favorite local breweries, Two Roads Brewing Company, hosted the Connecticut Brewers Fest where over 20 breweries came together under one roof for an epic tasting!

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Two Roads is located in a huge 100 year old factory in Stratford, CT.  The first floor houses the brewery and the second floor is home to huge tasting room and event space. Many of the details of the original building were kept intact and you get the feeling of stepping back into the industrial era when you walk through the doors.   

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After checking in, I received an awesome glass to commemorate the event and use as my tasting glass for the evening.  I headed into the first room where there were about 12 to 15 tasting tables set up.  The first brewery I saw was Thimble Island Brewing Company out of Branford.  I’ve enjoyed their American Ale on many occasions, so I decided to try the Coffee Stout this time and YUM!  This is a beer made for the colder months ahead and served with a good beef stew.  I was off to a good start.  

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I moved on to try a Cannoli Ale from Shebeen Brewing in Wolcott, Arch Amber from the Hartford Better Beer Co. and the 203 Lager from a new brewery opening up in Branford called Stony Creek.  I enjoyed them all, except that the Cannoli Beer was a bit sweet for my taste…kind of like a scotch ale.

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I was happy to find one of Connecticut’s newest breweries and a personal favorite of mine, Black Hog Brewing Company.  You might recall that I attended their opening back in August and have been excited to try their new concoctions ever since.  Here they were sampling a new Rosemary Dunkelweizen which I had never heard of before, but the rosemary peaked my interest.  I was happy to find this to be a delicious dark wheat beer with many herbal undertones.  Can I have a whole pint please?

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I moved into the main tasting room where there were about 10 more tables set up, as well as the giant Two Roads bar where you could taste their entire selection.  This room also overlooks the brewery floor where people were still hard at work bottling.  Seriously, this place is massive…

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As I’m sure you can tell by now, I prefer the darker, maltier beers to the hoppy IPAs.  IPAs are really big among craft beer lovers, but I just find them a bit to bitter for me.  There was a large crowd gathered around the Beer’d Brewing Co. table (love the name!) which meant they probably had a great selection.  However there were only IPAs available to taste.  I tried the L.I. Connection which I was told was the maltiest of the bunch, but I didn’t really enjoy it as I expected.  But Beer’d did take the prize for best logo and taps 🙂

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I sought out a few more beers I might enjoy and found quite a few good contenders among the other breweries.  There was the Octoberfest Ale and Season of the Witch from Broad Brook Brewing Company in East Windsor, Weed Amber Ale from the newly operating Weed Company in Cheshire, and one of my favorites from the night Emily’s Chocolate Coconut Porter from Firefly Hollow Brewing Co. in Bristol. Oh man was that delicious!!

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My last stop was to the Two Roads bar to finally get a taste of their Rosemary’s Baby Pumpkin Ale.  I had see the poster for the beer earlier in the year and had been looking forward to trying it.  I’m not a huge pumpkin fan but this was really good.  Had more of a vanilla cinnamon flavor to it…big win!

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Before leaving I checked out some of the merchandise from the Two Roads shop and from the CT Beer Trail table.  Yes, there is a Beer Trail in CT and yes, you should definitely check it out!  There were a lot of fun shirts but I showed some restraint…

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On my way out I took a look at the three food trucks that were set up outside for the event.  The Local Meatball, Bounty and Lobstercraft.  Two Roads has a different food truck visit each day and you can bring it all inside to enjoy with your beer…pretty cool.  The hot buttered lobster roll was hard to pass up, but I had dinner waiting at home so I kept on walking…sigh…

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This was a really fun event and kudos to Two Roads for hosting all of these breweries that are essentially their competition.  It goes to show how great the brewery community is here in CT.

Do you have any local breweries you enjoy in your areas?  What is your favorite beer?

**I was invited to attend this event but was not required to write a review.  All opinions are my own and I  just LOVE good beer**

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Taste of New Haven Theater District Tour

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We moved to the New Haven area 5 years ago and are still fining new places to eat and enjoy in the Elm City.  One of the best ways we’ve found to explore the city is on a Taste of New Haven tour.  These tours offer a unique look at the city with stops at various shops and restaurants where you sample the food and drink offerings.  The tour guides are incredibly knowledgable about the history of New Haven and its beautiful architecture.  This weekend we took our second tour through the Theater District in Downtown New Haven.  It included wine, chocolate, apizza, local beer, margaritas and a stroll through Yale in the rain…it was a blast!  Come on, I’ll take you along…

We met our tour guide Natalie at Temple Plaza behind the Shubert Theatre at 3pm on Saturday.  There were about 16 people in our group and we all quickly introduced ourselves by sharing our name, where we’re from, what we do and what our favorite food is.  That is a really tough question for me, but I went with pork belly…of course 🙂

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After a brief history of the plaza we were in, we headed off to our first stop which was a wine tasting.  Natalie warned us we were going to have a good time!

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Here we were treated to a tasting of two wines, a von Schleinitz Riesling and a red from Portugal called Agricultura.  The Riesling was too sweet and neither B nor I enjoyed it, but the Agricultura was wonderful!  That is a wine I never would pick up in the store because I know nothing about Portuguese wines, but now I might have a new favorite.  

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We took some time to look around the shop that is filled with unique spirits and has a large local beer section.  We also learned that a wine thief is actually a long glass shaft that is used to sample barrels as they are aging.  I just figured they like to go around stealing wine…

Temple Grill

After a few samples, we headed over to Temple Grill for a bite to eat and a cocktail.  

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Even with a slight drizzle, we were seated outside under umbrellas which was nice.  We were greeted with Sangira and their Waldorf Chicken Salad Wrap with homemade Waffle Fries.  I’m not a big fan of Sangria but this was pretty tasty and not overly sweet.  The wrap was just ok, nothing to get excited about, but the waffle fries were delicious!  I could’ve eaten a bucket of those.

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While we ate, Natalie told us a bit of history about the location and the owner’s great, great, great grandfather who apparently owned a local brewery and became a pioneer by selling his product on Sundays right there in that location.  

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The rain was really starting to come down now so we quickly made our way to the next stop on the tour, Bar.  New Haven is famous for its “apizza” style of pizza, which I have really grown to love over the past few years.  Bar was one place I hadn’t tried yet so I was excited to see what all the hype was about.  

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The restaurant is very unique in that it is housed inside an old parking garage and still has all the exposed brick and metal beams exposed.  The space is massive and we were seated in the Back Room which is actually turned into a nightclub on the weekends.  

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Here we sampled three of their own beers that they brew on premise: Toasted Blonde, AmBAR Ale and Damn Good Stout.  I actually really enjoyed all three of these, but the Damn Good Stout was by far my favorite.  It was actually light for a stout and had interesting coffee and chocolate notes.  

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While we were waiting for our pizza, we learned more about the history of New Haven Apizza and the rivalries between the famous institutions of Frank Pepe’s and Sally’s.  Bar’s pizza is a bit different from the traditional as the crust is thinner and it is not made in a coal fired over, but damn that was some good pizza!

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We were able to sample 3 different pies: a traditional red pie (no cheese), red pie with mozzarella, and Bar’s signature mashed potato and bacon pie.  While the mashed potato pie might sound good in theory, it was way too rich for me.  That’s like heavy carbs on top of carbs.  My favorite was actually the red pie…the sauce was so good that it really didn’t need anything else.  After we ate, Natalie treated us all to a few Fireball shots…FIRE IN THE HOLE!

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By the time we left, the rain was coming down but it was still pretty warm out so B and I actually had a fun time walking around in the rain.  Maybe the shots helped too.  On our way to the next spot, we stopped to look at some of the architecture of the Yale buildings on what I’m assuming is their version of “fraternity row.”  Not only did the Greek letters give it away, but so did the abundance of red solo cups…sigh…

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Chocolat Maya

What’s better to have after some pizza and beer than some chocolate?!  B was super stoked about this next stop  🙂  Chocolat Maya is a boutique chocolate shop, meets cocktail lounge…ok now I was stoked too!  

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Not only did we get a chocolate sampling, but we were greeted with a Salted Caramel Martini!  This is Caramel  Vodka and Butterscotch Schnapps with a Salted Caramel Truffle inside.  OH. YES. PLEASE!  The drink was quite sweet, but I surprisingly really enjoyed it!  We will be back for sure.

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Before leaving, B had to get some chocolates for the road.  He grabbed up an assortment of dark chocolate truffles which were perfect for snacking on the rest of the tour.

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Yale Campus

After stuffing our faces and having quite a few cocktails, we took a break and walked around the Yale Campus a bit.  It is like stepping back in time…makes me wish I tried a bit harder in high school so I could’ve had a chance at going there!  I just want to stay in one of those buildings!

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We stopped outside the Yale Center for British Art, a beautiful museum that is free and open to the public.  Then moved on up to the infamous Skull & Bones building.  It’s quite the fortress…

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On our walk we came across a statue of Theodore Dwight Woolsey, president of Yale in the mid-1800s.  Rumor has it that rubbing his foot will bring good luck, which is why you can see that the color on the shoe is quite worn from over 100 years of luck giving.  Also, check out the crazy cobweb veil going on…yikes!  

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On our way to the next location, we stopped to learn about at a few other unique landmarks.  The Taft Hotel, home to one of my favorite spots in New Haven, Ordinary.  Then it was on to a public art project called Square with four circles, which is located in a walkway between Zinc Restaurant and Ann Taylor.  You can see it in the background of this awesome photo of me with a fake goat in a wagon.

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Oaxaca Kitchen

Time for some Mexican food!  Chips, salsa, guacamole and margaritas make the perfect meal…I probably should’ve said that in the beginning intros!  That is just what we had at Oaxaca Kitchen on College Street.  

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The guac was great (however not as good as mine!) and the salsa has a nice zing.  The margaritas had too much lime juice and/or sour mix in them and many people at the table had the same complaint.  We were able to sit next to a different group at this spot, which is part of the fun in these tours…getting to know people!

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Now it was time to move on to our last stop on the tour.  We were actually pretty full at this point and feeling good from the drinks…it’s amazing how fast four hours can go by when you’re having fun.

Kelly’s Gastropub

This was the only stop on the tour that we had actually been to before.  It had been a few years, but the meal wasn’t all that memorable so I didn’t have high hopes for this spot.  

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Yes, that is B photobombing my pic.  We were greeted by the friendly owner, Pat, who gave us a selection of beers to choose from.  I went with the 1687 Brown Ale from local brewery Charter Oak in Norwalk and B chose the Brother Thelonious Belgian Style Ale from North Coast Brewing.  Big fan of both of these beers!  Pat entertained the group with stories of how he came to America from Ireland and how he ended up setting up shop here in New Haven.  Very entertaining indeed…

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While the beer and company were great, the food was a miss.  I actually forgot to take a photo because I was quite unimpressed.  We were given a goat cheese croquette, tuna tartare and caprese on a cracker.  They were like leftover hors d’ouerves they just threw together for us because (as Pat admitted) they forgot we were coming. 

Natalie then brought in some Mochi Ice Cream that she picked up at Jake’s Diggity Dogs next door.  This was my first experience with mochi and I must say, I’m not a fan.  The chewy, gummy texture was kind of gross.  However B enjoyed it and ate mine up.  As if he didn’t have enough chocolate that day!

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Besides the hiccup with the food at the end, the tour overall was fantastic, informative and just fun!  I think these tours are an absolute steal at $55 (+tax & gratuity) when you consider all of the food and drink you get.  Plus the historical information on New Haven is just fascinating.  There are currently nine different tours being offered, including a Pizza and Pints Bike Tour.  Doesn’t that sound like fun?!    If you are in the New Haven area, or even just passing through, I highly recommend one of these tours.  I think the Wooster Square tour is next on my list…gotta check out all that apizza!

 Do you have any local food tours in your area to check out?

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Black Hog Brewing Co. Grand Opening

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Local breweries in Connecticut are really starting to make a name for themselves and the newest one to join the ranks is Black Hog Brewing Co.  Black Hog is the creation of Jason and Tom Sobocinski of Caseus Fromagerie Bistro in New Haven and Tyler Jones, former brewer at The Portsmouth Brewery in New Hampshire.  During all of their family celebrations, Jason and Tom have roasted a hog, so Black Hog was an obvious choice to name this brewery celebrating all things family and food.

Even though Black Hog started distributing around Connecticut in July and is already in over 100 locations statewide, yesterday was the grand opening of their tasting room in Oxford, CT!  After hopping off of a plane from our week in Florida, B and I headed straight there to support the opening.  How could I miss it?  I’ve been super excited about this since they announced the brewery back in the spring!    

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By the time we arrived, it was packed!  There was a long line to get inside the 3,500 ft. brewery to taste all of the beers Black Hog currently has to offer.  Once inside you could choose from a pint or squealer (Black Hog’s 32 oz version of a growler – very clever) of one of their four year round brews or a tasting of any of their current seven offerings. 

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Black Hog prides itself on using ingredients from local farms that can be found in their Farmland Series and they even grow some of them right outside including hops and strawberries.  This series will feature a new brew every season and donate part of the proceeds to the Working Lands Alliance.  Currently in the works is a Basil Pale Ale!

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So let’s look at all the beers Black Hog currently has to offer!

Year Round Brews

Ginja Ninja is a Red India Pale Ale infused with fresh ginger.  This is a refreshing brew with only a slight hoppiness to it.  It’s perfect for a warm summer day or maybe paired with your favorite fall dish.

Easy Rye’ Da is an easy drinkin’ low ABV Rye India Pale Ale.  Due to the low ABV, this brew can be sipped on all day long and is perfect paired with a cheese board to bring out those grassy undertones.

Granola Brown is a Brown Ale brewed with a granola mix of oatmeal, grains, hops and roasted malts.  Remember that roasted pig that this brewery was founded on, this here is its perfect pairing.

Nitro Coffee Milk Stout combines a sweet stout with organic Columbian Supremo and Espresso roasted coffees.  This brew is lighter than your typical stout and has a lovely silky texture that comes from being poured over Nitrogen gas lines. 

Seasonal Brew

S.W.A.G. is a Summer Wheat Ale brewed with grapefruit peel.  This contains everything you want in a summer brew.  It’s has the light wheat flavor with bitter citrus notes from the grapefruit.  A perfect pair with a lobster roll on the water.

Farmland Series

Strawberry Gose is a German-style Wheat Beer infused with organic strawberries from Massaro Farm in Woodbridge, CT as well as coriander and pink Himalayan sea salt.  This just screams summer!

The Hop Collective (T.H.C. Series)

THC Chinook is a Single Hopped American Pale Ale.  This brew has piney aromatics and notes of exotic spices.   

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While on line, I grabbed a pint of Granola Brown and after about 30 minutes I made it up to the tasting bar.  Now to decide which four beers I wanted to try!

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Since I already had the Granola Brown (which is DELICIOUS!), I decided to try Easy Rye’ Da, Ginga Ninja, Nitro Coffee Milk Stout and THC Chinook.  Look at the awesome branded paddle for the samples!

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No Sobocinski celebration would be complete without a hog roast of course!  Jason roasted up an 80-pound hog for his guests, but sadly by the time we arrived it was all gone!  That’s right folks, 80 pounds of deliciousness gone in 2 hours.  

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Thankfully The Cheese Truck was on-site to deliver some crispy, melty goodness.  The perfect pairing with some craft beer. 

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Since I’m a fan of darker and not so hoppy beers, the Granola Brown was right up my alley. I knew I was going to love this beer from the first time I read the description and I’m so glad it will be available year round.  I also really liked the Coffee Milk Stout and surprisingly so did B!  It was smooth and had a subtle coffee flavor…YUM!  The other 3 weren’t my style.  I’m not a fan of Pale Ales because they are generally too hoppy for me which these were, but I did enjoy the Ginga Ninja.  It was refreshing and would be nice on a hot day. 

My friend Ashley came and met us there and we all had a great afternoon!  I will definitely be back to the tasting room to try more of Black Hog’s seasonal and limited release series as they come out and I’m looking forward to seeing more taps in restaurants around the state. 

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Have you tried Black Hog Brewing Co.?  What is your favorite local brewery?  

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Asparagus – A Labor of Love

I recently started reading a book called Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life. It’s the story of a family who left their life in Arizona to live a rural life in southern Appalachia. They vowed to live for one year off of local food they either they grew themselves, or could find in their local community. Not only is it an compelling story, but it is an insightful look at the food culture in America.  

Chapter 2 focuses on asparagus, one of the first vegetable to appear in the spring.  To grow it is truly a labor of love as it takes 3 years after first planting to yield your first crop…that’s a long time to wait.  But if you love and nurture the plants, they can keep producing for 20 – 30 years! 

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As the author states, “waiting for foods to come into season means tasting them when they’re good…” and this is particularly true with asparagus.  Since it is such a delicate vegetable, once cut it begins to go down hill very quickly.  I will buy asparagus occasionally through out the year when I’m feeling in the mood, but there is nothing like those few weeks in May when my local farm has their own homegrown asparagus available.  The look an feel of that stalks are like nothing you will find in a grocery store…firm with vibrant colors!

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My favorite way to prepare asparagus is to toss it with olive oil, salt and pepper, then simply roast it in a 425 degree oven for 8 – 1o minutes.   I find this method enhances the flavor even more than simply steaming it.  Fresh, local asparagus is sweet…incredibly sweet!  I find asparagus to generally be a bit bitter, but not this.  It’s like it’s made from sugar.  Such a treat!

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There are only a few weeks left that you will be able to find this vegetable in all of it’s perfectly ripe glory.  So get out there and visit your local farm to pick some up!  Make sure to come back and let me know if you can tell the difference.  I bet you can!

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Escape to Spring with Grilled Cheese & Cupcakes!

Yesterday I attended a really fun event at Van Wilgen’s Garden Center in North Branford, CT!  It’s the Escape to Spring Expo and was the perfect way to help my case of spring fever 🙂  

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This event is s a lot more than just getting your fix of spring flowers (yes they have some great deals!), but it is a full on exposition.  There are over 30 vendors displaying garden designs and innovations, but also local jewelers, artists, snack companies, pet stores, and a brewery.  

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Outside there were 7 food trucks set up and the smells were AMAZING!  It was really hard to decide what to get…tacos, fries, lobster roll, mac & cheese…gah!    

After some hemming and hawing, I decided to go with my favorites…grilled cheese & cupcakes!

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The Caseus Cheese Truck is a HUGE hit here in the New Haven area.  The wait was about 20 minutes to get your grilled cheese after ordering, but as always was worth it.  We heard they went through 600 pounds of cheese yesterday…whoa!  I got mine with ham and a side of tomato soup 🙂

Being the cupcake addict that I am, of course I had to hit the cupcake truck next!

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What I didn’t expect was the 15 different kinds!  How to choose?!?  Soooooo we got 8. Cannoli, Coconut Dream, Luck of the Irish, Chocolate Fudge, Strawberry Cheesecake & Chocolate Bottom…ooooooooh boooooy!

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B needs a napkin...

B needs a napkin…

After stuffing our faces and wandering around the expo a bit, we decided to watch one of the cooking demos.  An awesome demo kitchen was set up in the greenhouse for the weekend and chefs from various local restaurants came to show off their goods!

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Our pal Jason from Caseus (and The Cheese Truck) was showing everyone how to make the perfect cripsy, melty grilled cheese at home.  Good bread, a variety of cheese, a good cast iron pan and TONS of butter…YUM.  B even got up and helped make some!

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Oh and then we got samples!  More grilled cheese?  Oh sure!

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What a fattening fun afternoon!  The weather was a gorgeous 60 degrees which made it the perfect way to welcome the best time of year!

How are you welcoming spring? 

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